In Her Words: My Internship with UNHR Geneva

April 24, 2019 | By Liz Stevens, 3L
Liz Stevens in front of the UN headquarters in Geneva

This year, I had the opportunity to intern with UNHR Geneva, a nonprofit located in Geneva, Switzerland. UNHR works to improve access to the United Nations and enhance the effectiveness of small and mid-sized states and NGOs working in the UN system. UNHR works with several countries, including Fiji, Togo, Somalia, Eritrea, Paraguay, and Afghanistan. I was paired with the delegation from Fiji. Because UNHR is located in Geneva, my internship was mostly remote; however, I was able to go to Geneva for a week during the Human Rights Council.

During the fall semester, the group of interns had online classes during which we learned about the UN Human Rights Council and had meetings with experts on various human rights issues. Around Thanksgiving, we were assigned delegations and began to work directly with them. The first few months were spent summarizing reports and writing memos on human rights issues that were important to our delegations.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a week of the Human Rights Council and work directly with the Fijian delegation. I landed in Geneva at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 4, and headed straight to the Palace of Nations – the UN headquarters in Geneva. The Human Rights Council meets in The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room, a massive room with a spectacular ceiling.

Liz Stevens (left) and group in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the UN

Liz Stevens in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room at the UN.

Every country in the Human Rights Council had a seat in the main room, along with numerous NGOs. I sat in on discussions between country delegations, NGOs, and experts about topics ranging from albinism, UN sustainable development goals, and even a draft treaty on business and human rights. The high commissioner on human rights spoke to the council about the progress she has seen on human rights, as well as the areas and countries where work remains to be done. It was very interesting to sit in the room and listen to the discussion and debate about human rights issues I have been studying in class for the last three years.

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend a week in Geneva at the Human Rights Council. Without the opportunities I have had at OU Law to study international law, particularly with Professor Evelyn Aswad, I would not have been able to take advantage of this internship. OU Law has provided me with several international law experiences over the past three years, and I am certain these experiences will continue to shape my legal career for years to come.

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